Gaile's Trip Report – GWFC Day #5
27 August 2006: Community Day
The final day at the Games Convention in Leipzig was reserved completely for fans and members of the Guild Wars community. Oh, sure, we didn't mind if folks who hadn't heard of the game yet stopped by, too—the more, the merrier! But NCsoft Europe and ArenaNet planned the day to focus primarily on the enormous Guild Wars community, allowing us to share a special time with those who have supported the game. After all, many of these folks have been playing since Prophecies was released, and more join every day! We held several conference calls and sent a flurry of emails across the Atlantic as we strategized how to pack a lot of fun into the day. Here's what we decided on: Two Q&A sessions, challenge matches, trivia contests, Guild Wars costume recognition, giveaways, and more.
Before those activities began, we started out the day with one final competitive game. The Black Emperor [bE] guild, winner of a competition hosted by long-time German fansite Wartower, took on a group of GWFC finalists in a special challenge match. The pick-up team of champions against whom bE played was led by Isaiah Cartwright—one of the game designers at ArenaNet—and it consisted of representatives of several guilds spanning all three regions: Asia, Europe, and North America. The two teams played a rousing game, and at the end, Black Emperor members were presented with medals and several other gifts.
An early activity was the Guild Wars Trivia Contest. For each question, a guest was selected from the audience and brought onstage to answer a question about Guild Wars. Participants were allowed to seek help from a friend or to accept "coaching" from the audience as a whole, so most questions were answered pretty readily. A few proved to be stumpers, however. Poor Loremaster Ermered of Kryta—everyone seems to have forgotten your name! Of course, all who participated in the contest received their share of prizes, with those who had the correct answer receiving the larger bits of swag.
One of the Community Day highlights came in the afternoon when we brought on stage all those who had come to the show in Guild Wars costumes. The costume themes ran the gamut from Assassin to Warrior. The costumes themselves ranged from cute to whimsical to downright gorgeous, and some of the creators wore them throughout the course of the convention, showing their Guild Wars love on a daily basis. Thank-you gifts were given to all who came in costume. Four lucky participants received a goodie bag that included, in addition to other great prizes, with one of the most sought-after items at the show: A Guild Wars Factions Championship t-shirt from the winning team! We will definitely consider including costume recognition in future events.
We held another gameplay session later in the day, where four members of the ArenaNet and NCE team played competitive matches in Team Arena against players who had signed up earlier. In fact, players were so eager to participate that we had to close the signups hours before the matches began. Stepping up to the plate were Alex, Martin, Loic, and Isaiah. Hey, I would have played, too, but somebody had to hand out prizes! :) Judging from the good time had by all, we really need to do challenge matches again, too!
And on another scale altogether, we held a different form of "competitive match" in hosting a few rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and gave prizes to the winners of those games.
Two Question & Answer Sessions
The day also included a pair of Q&A or "interview sessions." First came the Fansite Q&A, where European community sites participated in a round-robin question and answer session. Participants included representatives from five sites originating in three countries: Germany, France, and the Czech Republic. The format called for a designated staff member from each site to ask a question, which was translated by Martin Kerstein, our German Community Coordinator for NCE. Then, Isaiah or I—and usually both of us—would respond with an answer. The questions spanned topics from competitive gameplay to Nightfall, and from much-requested game features to the future of Guild Wars as a whole.
A fan Q&A followed in the afternoon, and the players asked many good questions about Guild Wars, Nightfall, and more. Here are sketches of a few of the questions and answers:
- Reconnects: One player asked, as a few had asked earlier in a more informal setting, about whether Guild Wars will someday support the ability to reconnect to an existing map (either a PvP game or a mission) in cases where a player is disconnected. I spent a few minutes explaining the complexities involved in what, on the surface, may seem a simple feature. I mentioned challenges such as the potential for intentional disconnects to abuse the system, for instance, to reset a Skill Bar, avoid certain monsters, preserve a title, and so on. Isaiah concurred and added to the list other challenges that we will need to address. The audience responded positively to the explanation, and several nodded in agreement that it was truly not a simple matter. Audience members reacted even more favorably when we said that the entire team very much hopes we can implement a reconnection feature in the future and that, because such a feature would give advantage in competitive play if not offered globally, it would surely be offered to all players, rather than being offered specifically in one campaign and not another.
- Campaign-Specific Content: A player asked why we only offered the expanded storage to Factions players. He indicated that he was concerned about future campaign-specific elements of the game. I explained that for matters that are not unbalancing—that do not give anyone an advantage—we must reserve the right to offer new features that are exclusive to a new campaign. Isaiah added comments in agreement with that position, as well. We found that when we explained, players do understand that, because our game requires no monthly fee, we should offer incentives to purchase the next game. For it is through purchasing new games that players support development of such games as Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall.
- Skill Balance: Isaiah was asked about balancing skills, and he explained the process and detailed how, when certain skills are overpowered or certain game choices become less popular, the team looks into making changes that reinvigorate gameplay and make specific areas more fun.
- Duplicate Skills: A player asked why Factions offered duplicate skills. Isaiah explained their purpose and the thinking behind the duplicates. He said that it was not yet certain if duplicate skills would be offered in Nightfall. I added a bit that I've shared in forums: The duplicate skills are extras, not part of the promised number of skills for Factions. So their inclusion in no way reduced the number of new skills for the professions and, in my opinion, should be seen only as a positive thing.
- Online Store and Skill Packs: Another player asked about whether we would consider offering the ability to purchase skills from previous campaigns via the online store. I assured him that this idea is something that the team definitely would consider.
- Fan Feedback: With a few of the answers I gave, I may have gotten up on my soapbox a little bit. This is because it's important to all of us to let players know that the entire team reads the forums and listens to fan requests, comments, and suggestions. I told everyone that we truly do visit the fan forums every day to read what the players think. It goes without saying that players can see that their input is reflected throughout Guild Wars, as it always shall be.
Fansites in Attendance:
Guild Wars fansites turned out for GC; some of them had a dozen staff members in attendance! I am sure that I did not catch all the names of those attending, but I'll post up a partial list. I invite others who were present to drop me an email, and I'll expand this list. On the sites below, you'll find excellent coverage of the show:
The NCsoft Europe team did a fantastic job in putting together the Leipzig show. Alex, Loic, and Martin organized many of the Community Day activities that we had planned for Sunday. Martin doubled as MC on Sunday, and Volker Boegnik, a CS rep from NCE, also served as MC and showed hidden talents as cheerleader and singer. (In a surreal moment, he did the callouts and led the audience in "We will rock you." GG, Volker!) The business team was stellar in every way, organizing the show, dinner, tour, party, travel, and much more. And our tournament coordinator, Mike Gills, did an absolutely super job with all the many details of the tournament.
The event in Leipzig was the most memorable I've attended. It didn't feel like "a bunch of people" in our booth, it felt like a family gathering or a group of real friends getting together. The passion of the Guild Wars players was evident in so many ways: The three ladies who came in Guild Wars costumes and who were front and center in support of every single competitive match. The young man who nearly cried for joy as he completed his skill pin collection in the final minutes of the show. The fansite staff members attendees who always give so much, and who continue to share their time and passion with the community at large. The player who flew over from the U.S. to attend the show and who asked for nothing for himself, but wondered if he could get a t-shirt for his father, a Guild Wars player celebrating his 60th birthday that very day. The players who shared a laugh with me about Der Frosch and his distinctive ways. The guilds who came out in force, many wearing wonderful team shirts, one wearing—yes, I am serious—bunny ears. (One guild, Enten Kommando [EK], gave me a badge that designates me as an honorary member of the guild, and I will treasure that souvenir always.) The beaming faces of the players who loved the prizes, not because they were getting "free stuff," but because the pins, or the shirts, or the mini-standees, or the calendars really meant a lot to them. (Who knows, we may see a "Guild Wars Shrine" in a European home or two, given the enthusiasm for the game and the goodies. Not that I know anything about gaming shrines in homes or anything. ;) )
I was enormously proud of our booth. Without prejudice, I think it was the best looking presentation at the show. From the sandy floor to the lighted characters to the tower tops, it was simply a beautiful display.
I am even more proud of our guilds, who were excellent representatives of The Guild Wars gaming community—modest in victory, gracious in defeat, friendly to all. Their gameplay was simply amazing and their sportsmanship was commendable.
I am writing this at 38,000 feet, flying home from Amsterdam. All of GC is a blur of exciting gameplay, fantastic events, and, most of all, the smiling faces of the Guild Wars fans. Germany—indeed all of Europe, and the entire world—has embraced Guild Wars and taken it to their hearts. The players' kindness to me—their considerate words, their friendliness, their patience, their enthusiasm for the game—held me in awe. I thought I might make a few friends at GC. Instead, I feel as if I've made a thousand. I can assure you that I have already told NCsoft and ArenaNet, "When we come to Germany again, please let me come, too!"
Deutschland, ich liebe Dich.
I cannot resist sneaking in just a few of my favourite non-show photographs. The first three are of Thomaskirche in Liepzig, a beautiful church closely associated with the composer Johann Sebastian Bach. The others are of beautiful spots along the Rhine River.